(Yes, I can resist the temptation to add the subtitle: ‘Sebastian in Wonderland’. Definitely too silly a pun…)
Weimar, Germany, August 2004. First day of the ‘Weimar Summer Courses’, my first major task as newly employed project assistant at the Bauhaus University within the EU funded project HERMES. It’s a huge event with more than 50 participants from all over the world. Directly after the welcome ceremony in the Europäische Jugendbildungs- und -begegnungsstätte Weimar (EJBW) I get to talk to the participant who has travelled the longest distance from home to the venue: Alice from Hong Kong. Click!
I remember the two weeks of my first Weimar Summer Course as a very strenuous time – so many duties, so many tasks to take care of, so much translating to be done, so little experience with events of that kind… In the end I was glad it was over, and I still alive. On the positive side, however, so many wonderful and inspiring people! Never would I want to miss the time we all spent together, and the fact that we got to know each other and became friends. This is what really matters. And Alice was a special person indeed. It always felt like a kind of remedy to have her company, to talk to her, and there was a whole bunch of reasons why she could have this important role for me. The missing language barrier, the similar age, our common sense of humour. Yes, we were definitely on the same wavelength right from the start.
15 years have passed since then (in words: fifteen). We never met again afterwards, but always remained in touch. (Yes, I hate to say it, but that is really a thing for which I am grateful to Facebook.) And I was ALWAYS optimistic that one day we would meet again. You are already guessing where this is going, right?
And what a wonderful afternoon we spent together yesterday around Victoria Harbour! Two and a half hours may not seem a lot, especially if it’s the first get-together after such a long time. But somehow it didn’t feel that way. Not only did I immensely enjoy seeing Alice again, but meeting her was also of huge importance to me. Whenever I travel to a new place, I feel very privileged if I can talk to someone whose home this is, who is part of that place, who will give me a personal insight into the culture, the way of thinking and living, everyday life in general. It adds a totally new dimension to any trip and enriches the experience. You can imagine that I had about 1,000 questions for her, but I hardly had to ask a single one of them, because she would tell me everything spontaneously – and very efficiently, with an extremely high ratio of information per time unit. Some things never change 😉 (And they shouldn’t!)
So thanks to her I now know more about the present, ongoing conflict in Hong Kong, the divisions among its citizens, the democratic movement, the protests, the hopes and fears, who is for and against what. And we did some great stuff, too – had a coffee (and hot chocolate, respectively), took the Star Ferry, walked along the promenade on the Kowloon side of the harbour. I have to admit, without her I wouldn’t have gone there, as I would have felt unprotected and alone.
DANKE, Alice! Und lass uns nicht fünfzehn Jahre bis zu unserem nächsten Wiedersehen vergehen!
PS: Ania D., Ania W., Dóri, Fotini, Levente, Burkhardt… We thought of you and talked about you, and we send you our warmest regards!